I recently had the chance to read and review a graphic novel called VOWELS by Skye Ogden. It was my first time reading a book from Gestalt Comics, and it surely won’t be my last, not only because of how interesting their other books look, but because of how damn good Vowels was.
This book came out in 2007 and managed to pass me by until now. It’s a completely “silent” graphic novel, and it pulls the wordlessness off by distilling its images gracefully into visually uncomplicated but morally complex images of humor, connection, tragedy, and hope. The characters are anthropomorphic non-humans that have quite a lot in common with our society and history. The narrative follows them through different time periods and bookends stories of heartbreak with basic but visceral tales of predators and prey, and the “humans” involved in these roles are never simplified.
It evokes A Contract with God in tone and, oddly enough, Goodbye Chunky Rice in style, but never copies either. Writer/artist Skye Ogden has a startlingly original voice (a bit ironic for a wordless book) and Vowels is a true vision. Fans of Top Shelf and Fantagraphics would do well to pay attention to Gestalt Comics, because if this book is any indication of the rest of their catalogue, they are preparing to inject a dose of much needed originality into the comics industry.